Fresh Summit sets records, shows global reachANAHEIM, Calif. — The Produce Marketing Association’s 2014 Fresh Summit set records and drew praise from exhibitors and attendees for its global reach.

A record 1,090 companies took up 265,300 square feet of exhibit space at the show, according to the PMA. The crowds at the show were bigger than ever as well, with better than 22,400 attendees from more than 60 countries participating in the Oct. 17-19 event.

The record-setting numbers created great energy on the floor between retailers, buyers and service providers, said Cathy Burns, president of PMA.

The Eat Brighter! initiative — royalty-free use of Sesame Street characters in produce marketing — was a focus at Fresh Summit, both at the State of the Industry address by Burns and PMA’s chief executive officer Bryan Silbermann, and at a panel discussion headlined by an appearance by Let’s Move! executive director and senior policy advisor for nutrition Sam Kass.

Burns said more produce marketers and retailers are asking how to join the Eat Brighter! movement.

The international flavor of Fresh Summit was a big positive, exhibitors said.

“We export to 60 to 70 countries, and we have probably spoken to people from a dozen different countries today,” said Howard Nager, vice president of marketing for Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, Wash. “PMA has done a very good job of promoting their global connections and getting people here.”

“We have seen a lot of our international partners and a lot of our international customers, so I think the show has really grown as far as the people they bring in,” said Robb Bertels, director of strategic marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

“The PMA for us has become an international meeting place,” said Mark Hanks, vice president of sales and marketing for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce, Fla. “Growers from the Southern Hemisphere are vary loyal attendees here.”

Fresh Summit attracted more than 1,150 retailers, which PMA said was the largest attendance of retailers since 2001.

“It was a huge crowd,” said Teri Miller, category manager for produce for Delhaize America, Salisbury, N.C. “I found it more difficult to get through the (floor) on Saturday than on Sunday,” she said.

The face-to-face interaction between buyers and sellers is valuable, Nager said.

Nager said Superfresh Growers brought several sales representatives to the show for the first time.

“It is what the convention and networking are all about, developing that trust with the customer,” said Nager. “They speak to them all the time on the phone, but there is just something once you meet them face to face,”

Women can network with other women in the industry, making what Nager called a terrific experience for 20-something and 30-something sales representatives.

“It is my 31st PMA and those of us veterans who have been here a lot, their enthusiasm rubs off on us, too,” he said. “So it’s really been fun.”

Burns said she is enthused about the leadership of Kevin Fiori, vice president of sales and marketing for Sunkist Growers and chairman of the PMA board of directors, and his role in bringing PMA’s strategic plan to life.

“He brings a ton of energy, industry experience, an amazing amount of credibility and good strategic vision and is the absolute perfect guy to take us into 2015,” Burns said.

The 2015 Fresh Summit Convention and Expo will be Oct.23-25, 2015, in Atlanta.